Barefoot Bandit Learns It's Hard to Manage P.R. from Jail
Colton Harris-Moore's plan for releasing his movie deal news didn't quite work out
Colton Harris-Moore, better known as the "Barefoot Bandit," is disappointed that the news that he's sold his life-story rights to 20th Century Fox for $1.3 million didn't get out the way he intended.
Harris-Moore, whose fame as a fugitive owes as much to his ability to evade arrest during a spree of vehicle thefts and burglaries that stretched over two years and from the San Juan Islands of Washington State to the Caribbean as his ability to get messages out while he was on the run. His Facebook fan page currently has 23,142 members following the media-savvy fugitive, and while on the run he posted to Twitter to send out links to his own media coverage. Finally arrested last year after a high-speed boat chase in the Bahamas, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty in June to several federal charge last year and remains in custody in Seattle awaiting sentencing in October.
But he's not been idle. In addition to negotiating the deal with Fox for a movie they are developing with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and director David Gordon Green, he also had a plan on how to get the news out. Lance Rosen, Harris-Moore's Seattle-based entertainment lawyer, said the deal has been done for about a month, but it was not announced because Harris-Moore was working on a statement that he would distribute as an exclusive to small papers covering the San Juan Islands where he grew up. Instead the deal was first reported on Wednesday in the Everett Herald, a neighboring paper, and the full statement has been posted on the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets, and the San Juan Islander lost its exclusive.
"The intention always was to distribute it first to the small town newspapers in the communities where he was raised," Rosen says. "The Everett paper is almost the local community, but he would have preferred to have broken it there first. He wanted his community to be the first to hear." Rosen adds, "If anybody knows the media can’t be controlled, it’s Colton. The plan was never to go national with this until the local papers got it, and then the mechanism would take over and it would spread on its own."
The whole reason for Harris-Moore releasing the statement, and for making the movie deal in the first place, Rosen said, was to try to make amends with his home community. "The reason we decided to release the news is that rumors were spreading that he was compelled to sign an agreement" to give proceeds from a film deal to the victims, Rosen said. "A lot of people thought that Colton was going to make money off of his life story rights. That was something that offended him, and we decided we had to do something about it before these rumors took hold and were perceived as fact."
So-called Son of Sam laws prevent criminals from profiting from their stories, but they're generally confined to violent crime. Had Harris-Moore not signed a plea agreement that stipulated proceeds from his movie deal would go to his victims, he could have kept the money for himself. But he would have had a harsher prison sentence. "His position was that if it was just a little bit of money, he didn't want to do [the movie deal], but if it was a lot of money, that could make a significant restitution, he would. That’s how the price got so big. A willing buyer and a willing seller."